Local shop bounces back from double whammy

Walter Wallace
Walter Wallace

Posted by: Bryan Henry - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A little more than a year ago Montgomery firefighters hacked and sprayed their way into Auto Trim and Truck Design in east Montgomery, giving it their all to save the business but in the end the fire was too much.

Employees like Vicki Carpenter stood shakened because this was their home away from home for so long.

"I pulled up to that building for 22 years," Carpenter said while firefighters battled the blaze last May.

Today, a new building, a new perspective on what it means to bounce back for majority owner Walter Wallace.

"It helps you realize what's important. Material things don't matter," said Wallace.

Hard-earned wisdom that came at a cost. During the year Wallace continued his business in a rented building a half-mile away, business plunged 30% and on top of that, Wallace had to lay off one employee because of the fire and the bad economy.

"A lot of people couldn't find us because of the different location. There were days when you didn't feel like getting out of bed," said Wallace.

Looking back Walter Wallace often thinks about how the fire started. It was unusual.

"The power had gone off in the building because of an accident at the one of the local dealerships and when they turned the power back on, it came through the ground wire, shorted out and caused an electrical fire," said Wallace.

The blaze rained down fire on the 9 cars that belonged to customers. All of them were destroyed along with Wallace's tools and inventory. In terms of dollars, Wallace's total loss was $800,000. He's thankful he had good insurance.

Even though Wallace has a new building, he is still getting burned by the fire. He says he had no choice but to cut back on hospital insurance for his employees and he canceled paid vacations.

"You have to be persistent and come to work everyday and do your job," said Wallace.

Now that he's back on his feet, Wallace decided to add a little humor by setting up his 'Roadside Kill Cafe' in his new business today. He served up some free bar-b-que for those customers who stood by him as part of his grand re-opening.

An exercise in perseverance for a man who withstood the heat of adversity.

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